Monday, February 3, 2020

Books: "Movies (And Other Things), Latest In Shea Serrano's Series

Movies (And Other Things)
By Shea Serrano; illustrated by Arturo Torres; Foreword by John Leguizamo
Twelve; hardcover, 256 pages; $25

Shea Serrano made his mark with his debut book, Basketball (And Other Things) a few years ago, and after that work's incredible success, he realized it was a format that could be put to any topic. 

The new book in this burgeoning series, Movies (And Other Things), tells the story in 30 chapters, with each chapter a different movie question that has to be answered. It also is one of the most visually pleasing books you will read, thanks to the illustrations from Arturo Torres, and one of the appeals to a book of this format is you can jump around. 

Serrano writes of how readers can approach this fun book in the introduction, "You don't have to read, say, Chapter 13 (which is about action movies) to understand chapter 14 (which is about Selena)...The closest thing to a guideline or a rule is that, generally speaking, I didn't want to spend a ton of time or energy talking about movies that came out before the '80s. There just haven't been a lot of times in my life where someone was like, 'Hey, man. What'd you think of Tony Curtis in 1959's Some Like It Hot,' you know what I mean? (In fact, the only reason I know that that's actually a movie is because Cher mentions it in 1995's Clueless). So I just focused on movies that I liked from time periods that I liked."

There also is the trust from Serrano that the reader knows what the movies referenced here are about, so there is not much time spent recapping the plots of movies like I Am Legend or John Wick, for example, so he can jump right into debating which movie character was the better dog owner.

Some of the questions include a three-part "What's the order of the gangster movie moment fictional draft?," and "Did Denzel's race-forward football camp work or not?" about Remember The Titans, and "Were the Jurassic Park raptors just misunderstood?"

Some of the questions are about movies released very recently, such as "When did you know book-smart was special?" and here is some of how Serrano answers, "A movie can be considered 'generation-defining' for any number of reasons. It can be because of something obvious, like if its arrival becomes a tentpole moment for cinema (something like 1975's Jaws or 1991's Terminator 2: Judgement Day; movies of that kind). It can be because of something more nuanced but no less substantial, like if its success marks the beginning of something new, and if not explicitly 'new' then certainly 'refreshed' (something like 1985's The Breakfast Club or 1996's Scream; movies of that kind). It can be because of something acute and poignant, like if it grabs hold of a specific time period and its accompanying ideals (something like 1969's Easy Rider or 1999's Fight Club; movies of that kind).

"Booksmart came out during the summer of 2019. It stars Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as Molly and Amy, two enthusiastically studious high school seniors who decide they want to spend their last night as high school students partying. Were I to guess, I would say Booksmart is going to age itself into that last category. It's a movie to watch and you say to yourself as you sit there, 'This is clearly something that people will look back on in years and mark its arrival as an important thing.' It's a movie you watch and say to yourself as you sit there, 'Okay, this is special. Booksmart is special.'"

Movies (And Other Things) is an incredibly fun read, and you will also learn something along the way through its thought-provoking ideas on what you have watched over the last four decades on the big screen.

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